Monday, March 4, 2013

Once a Month Meal Planning

I have used many different methods of meal/menu planning since I got married.  My “style” changes with what is going on in our lives, the budget, and where we live. 

When I was a new wife with no kids I did the menu one week at a time.  It was easy to shop at 4-5 different stores to get the best bargains on whatever we were wanting to eat. 

I went through a phase where I didn’t want to be restricted to a menu plan.  So I made a list of meals, had the ingredients on hand, and at supper time we picked what we wanted to eat from the list.

Now that I am without a vehicle most of the week, can’t walk very far, and have two toddlers that make dinner prep difficult, I have reverted to planning my meals a month at a time.  It’s one less thing to think about.  I plan a little flex into my schedule…leftovers, easy meals like soup & sandwich, and have a few back-ups just in case I really don’t want what’s on the plan.

In February I did a lot of freezer cooking, and we still have several meals in the freezer.  Today I made my menu for March and planned my shopping trip. Tonight I will go to the grocery store and buy the bulk of my items for March.  The idea is to only have to pop into the grocery store once a week or so for some milk & veggies.

When I plan my menu I try to pick meals we didn’t have last month.  If I’m making a casserole, I double it.  One goes in the freezer, and one is for dinner.  We have about 3 meatless meals each week, alternated with meaty meals.  We fill in the gaps with easy things or favorites – grilled cheese & tomato soup, pizza every Friday, and something quick on Wednesdays before church.  By rotating the meals each month, we don’t get completely bored eating the same thing over and over.

These are the meals I picked for March:

  • Poppy Seed Chicken
  • Biscuits & Sausage Gravy – leftover sausage from Feb.
  • Spinach Orzo Pie – one of Ben’s favs that I haven’t made in a while
  • Tuna Melts x2
  • Stuffed Shells x2
  • Chicken Alfredo
  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Wild Rice Chicken x2
  • Spaghetti
  • Stir Fry
  • Burritos x2 – leftover from Fev.
  • Sesame Chicken – leftover from Feb.
  • Pizza x4
  • Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos x2 – leftover from Feb.
  • Beans & Rice x2

I will spread out my freezer cooking over the next few days {because I can’t stand in the kitchen as long as I used to be able to} and have some of these meals prepped and ready to just pull out of the freezer.  I will make muffins and cookies, freezing at least half of each batch.  I will make granola bars for a snack, and add in some sides like Make Ahead Potatoes.  Then the bulk of my work is done for the month.  This really helped me last month when I was tired at the end of the day and I couldn’t stand for a long time to cook or prep a meal.   Instead I just popped it in the oven or the crockpot, and dinner was served.

Here’s my freezer cooking list for this month:

  • Cook & Shred Chicken Breasts. Portion and freeze for the following meals: Poppy Seed Chicken {2 cups}; Chicken Noodle Soup {1 cup};  Chicken Alfredo {1 cup}; Wild Rice Chicken x2 {1 cup each}

  • Freezer Biscuits

  • Green Rice

  • Mashed Potatoes

  • Shells x2

  • Wheat Bread x4

  • Pizza Dough x4

  • Morning Glory Muffins

  • Peanut Butter Cookies

  • Granola Bars {refrigerated}

Recently a couple of people have asked me about my system and what recipes I use.  Most recipes can be frozen or prepped and frozen.  I follow Money Saving Mom and she does a lot of freezer cooking, so she posts a lot of recipes.  She’s a little better in the kitchen than I am, so she makes adjustments to “regular” recipes so that they are freezer friendly.  I also use her freezer cooking and menu planning worksheets.  My mom used to do once a month cooking, so I have pulled my favorites from her recipes.  For the non-freezer meals, I just add any ingredients to my shopping list which I do not already have.  Then when it’s time to make the meal I have everything ready.

Here are some links for freezer cooking:

I have found it true that when I have a plan I spend less at the grocery store, and less time in the kitchen.  When I don’t, we eat less good food, eat out more, and over-spend our budget.  So it takes a little time and preparation, but menu planning works for me!

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